Baptism services are held at
either of our two historic churches, All Saints, Hartley,
and St. Mary’s, Fawkham,
at 12.30 p.m. on Sundays.
The service itself is full of significance and symbolism.
You will also find a good explanation of the symbolism of
water on pages 6 & 7, of the booklet “Your Baby’s
Baptism in the Church of England.”
At the end of these notes you will find the full version
of the service. I encourage you to read this so that you
can become familiar with it. There is a helpful commentary
on it on pages 10-13 of the booklet “Your Baby’s
Baptism in the Church of England.”
During the course of the baptism service there will be two
occasions when I will ask you questions. I want to highlight
these now so that you will have had the chance to think about
them and prepare yourselves for them.
Joining the Church Family
The first occasion comes after the Bible reading and sermon.
I will ask you and the godparents whether you are prepared
to bring your child up as a member of the Church Family (we
looked at this on p. 5 - Belonging to the Church Family.)
These are the words in the service which I will use:
“ Parents and godparents, the
Church receives these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith.
Will you pray for them, draw them by your example
into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?”
And then I will ask, “Will you care for them and help
them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s
I have highlighted in bold type the key phrases in these
two questions. They demonstrate that both the Church Family
and your family have responsibilities to fulfil. As a Church
Family we undertake that we will receive your child with
joy. We will do all that we can to make you and your child
feel welcome, and to help you grow in an awareness of God
and his loving purposes for you through worship, teaching
and fellowship. For your part, you will be promising to draw
your child by your example “into the community of faith” and
to “help them take their place within the life and
worship of Christ’s Church.”
A number of people say to me, “I believe, but I’m
not religious,” meaning that they’ve never thought
that church was for them. However, we hope that you’ll
soon discover the warm welcome awaiting you and that you
will want to join in with the different activities for you
and your child.
Sometimes parents will say to me, “I want my children
to be baptised, but they can make up their own mind later
on,” implying that they don’t wish to do anything
further to nurture their children’s faith. But this
undermines all the good that flows from baptism. A baby will
be born with your features and will pick up your mannerisms.
In the same way, as your child grows up, he or she will also
grow up with your faith. He or she will soon see what is
important in your life. That is why the first question specifically
asks if you will draw your child into the life of the church
by your example.
Through baptism and being part of the Church
Family you have the wonderful opportunity to share with your
child so much that is good and enriching in life. You will
be building a firm foundation for their lives which will
keep them in good stead for years to come. Later on they
are bound to face issues to do with relationships or drugs
or lifestyle - having a strong Christian background will
help them to cope with these pressures as they come.
Others will say to me, “You can be a Christian without
going to Church.” This may be true on one level, but
its rather like saying you can be a footballer without belonging
to a team. Yes, you can kick a football around on your own
in your back garden, but you will never fully develop your
skills in the way that you would with regular team training
sessions, and you would miss out on all the fun and excitement
of playing matches as part of a team.
I know that meeting with other members of the Church Family
on a Sunday morning is not always easy - when our children
are younger we have their sleeping and feeding patterns to
contend with, and when our children are older they have party
invitations or sports commitments. And then there are other
family occasions which are often held at weekends.
But as a beginning I would warmly encourage you to come along
to our monthly Family Service which is held on the third
Sunday of each month at 10.30 a.m. in the Church Centre on
the Ash Road. I hope this will soon become part of your family
You don’t need to worry about your child making a noise.
You will find many other families with young children as
well. Please see p 13 for further information about young
children and church.
Deciding to follow Jesus and his teaching
The second occasion when I ask you questions comes in the
section entitled, “The Decision”. In this section
I will ask you and the godparents two sets of three questions.
The first set of three questions is about turning our backs
on all that is evil in our world; and the second set of three
questions is about aligning our lives with God’s love
and purposes for us.
These two sets of three questions are very ancient, going
right back to the earliest times when the first Christians
joined the Church and were baptised two thousand years ago.
An analogy I
find helpful in understanding the spiritual dynamics behind
these questions is to think of our life as a journey, and
this point in the service invites us to make sure we are
travelling in the right direction. It is as if we are travelling
across London on the Underground. We are short on time
and we are hoping for smooth connections. After walking
through various tunnels and corridors we come to a short
flight of steps leading down to a platform on either side.
Just as we get to the bottom of the steps a train arrives
and we think, “Great; just what we need; now we won’t
have to wait on the platform for a long time and we’ll
be able to make our connections.” We jump on the
train and sit back in the seat, breathing a sigh of relief.
When we come to the next station we look out of the window,
but we get a surprise. “Just a minute,” we
think to ourselves, “that’s the wrong station!”
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we realise that we jumped on a train going in the opposite
direction from where we wanted to go. At that point we
have to do two things, simple but crucial. The first thing
we have to do is get off the train which is going in the
wrong direction. The second thing we have to do is get
on a train going in the right direction.
This, in effect,
is what is happening as we respond to these two sets
of three questions. In the first set of questions
we acknowledge that unless our lives are open to God and to
his will, then we are travelling in the wrong direction. In
the second set of questions we determine to live our lives
in the right direction, following the teachings of Jesus. As
we continue to follow Jesus throughout our lives we will finally
reach the right destination, the heavenly call of God where
we will be gathered in the fullness of his presence with all
These questions are set out on pages 10 and 11 of the booklet “Your
baby’s baptism in the Church of England.”
Affirming our Faith
There is one other part of the service where I will ask you
to join with me in saying words that carry great significance
and meaning. I will be baptising your child “in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and
just before I do so, I will invite you to affirm your faith
in God the Holy Trinity. We will use the words of the Apostles’ Creed
which have been used in the baptism service from the earliest
The Apostles’ Creed is a succinct statement of what we
believe as Christians. To help prepare you to say it with understanding,
you will be looking at it in greater detail in one of the baptism
It may be that this is the first time for years that you have
stopped to think about your faith in greater depth. Preparing
for baptism is a wonderful opportunity for you to grow in your
own faith. Clearly, a couple of sessions on Saturday mornings
will only scratch the surface. If you would like to follow
this up at a greater depth, we run a confirmation course each
year. In this course we look in greater detail at Christian
belief and lifestyle.
There is always more to learn about our faith, and new things
to discover in our relationship with God. I know I’m
learning all the time! I also hope that you will find our Sunday
services are a time when you can continue to grow in faith
through hearing the Bible readings and the teaching that follows.
The baptism service is rich in symbolic imagery. In these notes
I want to highlight three symbolic features.
1. Baptismal oil
After you have made the decision to reject all that is evil
and to follow Jesus, I will make the sign of the cross on your
child’s forehead. To do this I will use special baptismal
This is olive oil which has been blessed by the Bishop
in the Cathedral at a special service, and is then
taken by the clergy
to all the parishes in the Diocese. The symbolism is that
of getting ready for the race of faith.
In ancient days, when athletes were training
for an event, if they found their limbs were
aching or stiff after a hard
training session, they would use olive oil and massage
it into their body. In this way they would be
limbered up and
for the race. So also, in the baptism service we will be
praying that your child will be ready for the race of faith
is about to begin. And in the same way that you can tell
what team or country an athlete is representing by the
national emblem on their running vest, so also you can
tell what team your child belongs to by the sign
of the cross
on his/her forehead. In spiritual terms this shows that
part of the Lord’s team. In the baptism service we
will be pledging our support and encouragement for your
s/he sets off on this race. You and the godparents will
play the role of coach and training team for your child!
The symbolic use of water is described in detail on pages
6 & 7
of the booklet “Your baby’s baptism in the Church
of England.” It carries at least three levels of
i) We use water for washing, and so in baptism we are given
the opportunity to have a fresh start with God. (It is for
the same reason that the traditional colour for a baptismal
gown is white.) Any hurts, resentments or bitterness are
symbolically washed away and we begin with a clean slate.
ii) We also know that water can drown someone, so the water
of baptism symbolises dying to the old way of life, and
escaping from the hold of all that might separate us from
is a link with Jesus’ death on the cross which broke
the power of evil and then resurrection through which we
all have new life in friendship and union with God.
iii) The third level is that of the life-giving properties
of water. We need water to survive and thrive. The symbolism
of the life-giving spirit flowing into our lives to sustain
our new relationship with God.
At the end of the service I will give your child his
or her baptismal candle. I will light this from the
candle standing next to the font. This candle is lit
for the first
time at Easter each year, and it symbolises the light
and life that flows from the resurrection of Jesus
celebrate at Easter. This light and life is then symbolically
on to your child. The baptism concludes with the words, “Go
in the light and peace of Christ,” with the response, “Thanks
be to God.”
is a good idea to light your child’s baptism
candle on the anniversary of his or her baptism
each year and
remind yourself of the vows that you have taken.